The novel coronavirus has awakened a new normal for all of us even after schools let out. As we attempt to unite against this unseen enemy, inequalities and prejudices continue to be revealed. From COVID-19 being labelled the “Chinese” virus to the unprecedented racism toward Asian American students due to the coronavirus, it’s clear that we still have a lot of work to do to combat racism and xenophobia in our society.

But this time has also presented us an opportunity to gain deeper understanding and empathy for those who may be different from ourselves. It is my belief that while we have this time, we should use it to be better than before.

It is with this thought in mind that the SERC Library Blog continues its “From Here to Diversity” series dedicated to providing 18 exciting book recommendations for children, preteens, and young adults that recognize the importance of diverse representation in reading materials.

This month, we are shedding some more light on diverse representation by choosing 18 novels that feature protagonists and other characters from an Asian or Pacific Islander cultural background. With the acknowledgment that only 7 percent of all children’s books published in 2018 featured characters of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage, it remains important to provide exposure to these stories so that all young readers can feel seen and heard*.

In the list below, there are three sections of books: Picture Books, Middle Grade Novels, and High School Reads. The six books in each section feature predominantly #ownvoices stories and have been published within the last few years. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather a taste of the variety of stories that provide representation to these communities, appreciate an underrepresented perspective of experience, acknowledge histories, and celebrate #ownvoices authors and stories.

Enjoy!

Image of an open book

Elementary Reads

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English and Jonathan Weiner

Nadia is chosen to be part of her aunt’s traditional Pakistani wedding. Readers will follow along as Nadia learns about her culture through the decoration of her hands with traditional mehindi.

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and Richard Waldrep

Surfer of the Century provides a look at the life of native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimming champion and “father of modern surfing.” Though he struggled due to racism and other issues, Duke Kahanamoku overcame much to become a six-time Olympic medalist.

Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin

Discover all the tasty foods as a Chinese American family enjoys a traditional dim sum meal. Readers will learn about the origins and practice of dim sum from the beautiful artwork and educational author’s note.

Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Who Made History by Jasmine M. Cho

Explore this inspiring selection of stories about a variety of influential Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from history. The beautiful watercolor illustrations and rhyming stories will capture the imagination of young readers and show them the many things they can achieve.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee; illustrated by Man One

Follow the story of real Korean-American and Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi in a story experience that blends the appreciation of street food and street art.  To Chef Roy Choi, food is love and culture. It is with this idea that he has brought his love of Korean cuisine to the people by remixing and serving it in a food truck on the streets. Follow his story as he learns to make people smile with his delicious food.

Tiny Feet Between the Mountains by Hanna Cha

Soe-In may be small in stature, but she’s big in enthusiasm and bravery. Though she often has trouble with chores due to her size, she doesn’t hesitate to help out when members of her community decide to travel into the mountains to investigate why the sun has gone dark. They soon learn that a spirit tiger has swallowed the sun by mistake. Soe-In must come up with a clever idea to help the spirit tiger and her community, and return the sun to the sky.

Pictures of the book covers of Nadia’s Hands by Karen English and Jonathan Weiner, Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and Richard Waldrep, Dim Sum for Everyone! By Grace Lin, Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Who Made History by Jasmine M. Cho, hef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee; illustrated by Man One, and Tiny Feet Between the Mountains by Hanna Cha.

Middle School Reads

Dumpling Days (Pacy Lin series, Book 3) by Grace Lin

Pacy and her family are going to Taiwan for one month to celebrate her grandmother’s 60th birthday. She is very excited to travel, eat lots of dumplings, and attend the Chinese painting class her parents signed her up for. But things are not as she expected them to be. The language makes it difficult for her to make friends and understand her art teacher. Yet the more time Pacy spends in Taiwan, the more she learns about her own identity and what it means to be both American and Taiwanese.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Notable actor George Takei details his childhood and upbringing as a Japanese-American in this poignant autobiographical graphic novel. Takei recounts his experiences as his entire family is forced into an American concentration camp which imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. Read about Takei’s journey as he discusses the fear, courage, loyalty, and family that made him the activist he is today.

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Mai had plans of spending her summer at the beach, but her parents have other plans: Mai is forced to travel with her grandmother to Vietnam. To Mai, Vietnam is not part of her culture. It is so different from where she grew up in California, where the environment is not constantly hot and smelly, and the customs and language are not confusing. To be able to get through her trip, Mai must discover how to achieve the balance between the two cultures she is now a part of.

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Aru Shah series, Book 1) by Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah has a habit of lying in order to fit in. But when classmates come to her home at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture to catch her in her fib that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, she feels compelled to prove them wrong by lighting the lamp. But by doing so she has unwittingly frozen time and awakened the God of Destruction. Aru must find the 5 Pandavas to save the world and right the wrong she started.

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook

Chaya is a thief who steals from the wealthy to give to the poor people in her community. But when she steals jewelry from the Queen, even she has to agree that it probably wasn’t her best idea. She flees with some friends and a stolen elephant into the Sri Lankan jungle to avoid her crimes but ends up confronting dangers around every corner.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

The story of Suraya and her pelesit is based on a Malayasian folktale. Given to her by her witch grandmother, Suraya has grown up with her pelesit as a constant companion. Even so, Suraya doesn’t know that, while being ghostly companions, pelesits can also have a powerful, dark side that can be vicious and dangerous. When Suraya’s pelesit turns dark, she must find light in her friendships to survive.

Pictures of the book covers of Dumpling Days by Grace Lin, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook, and The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf.

High School Reads

Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata

Aiko Cassidy is the teenage artist behind the popular manga Gadget Girl—not that anyone knows it. Aiko has cerebral palsy, and she prefers to stay invisible even as she tries to break away from being her mother’s muse for her award-winning sculptures. When her mother is invited to go to Paris for an art exhibition, Aiko is invited to come along too even though she would much rather visit Tokyo so she could finally meet her father. But being in Paris leads to new experiences and connections that make her wonder if being invisible is really what she wants after all.

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Taiwanese-American student Mei has her life planned out for her by her parents. Though she is on track to get a degree at MIT, become a doctor, and eventually marry a suitable Taiwanese man, Mei hates biology and has a crush on a Japanese classmate. How can she stay true to herself when she knows that going against her parents’ wishes means estrangement from her family, just like what happened to her brother?

Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Reshma Kapoor has her eyes set on going to Stanford. She’s got the grades, the extracurriculars, and even has a book deal and literary agent just for the purpose of securing her an acceptance letter. But Reshma is pretty sure that no one would want to read a book by her overly studious self. So she sets out to make herself a more likeable protagonist by making friends, getting a boyfriend, and letting go of her perfectionism. But is it enough to get her the awesome ending she has worked so hard for?

Flame in the Mist (Series, Book 1) by Renee Ahdieh

Clever and accomplished Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden in a political marriage that will increase her family’s prominence and social standing. But before Mariko can reach the imperial city where her marriage will take place, a well-known and dangerous gang of bandits attacks and tries to kill her. After narrowly escaping with her life, Mariko attempts to sneak into the bandits’ camp dressed as a boy to find out their plans. Yet she soon finds acceptance and love within the gang’s ranks which will make her question everything she thinks she knows.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel have been arranged to be together—not that Dimple knows that. Dimple believes her mother is respecting her wishes to wait for marriage by supporting her enrollment at a summer web developer program. Meanwhile, Rishi is a romantic who believes in tradition and hopes to woo Dimple at the summer program they are attending. With such very different people, hilarity is bound to ensue.

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny Cheng is a talented artist with a bright future and plans to go to RISD for college. But this means leaving everything he has ever known: his home in California, his family, and his best friend Harry with whom he is secretly in love.  Among these upcoming changes, Danny discovers a mysterious box in the closet of his parents’ house that will uncover a family secret and change his world forever.

Pictures of the book covers of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata,  American Panda by Gloria Chao, Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

References:

* Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic. 

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.

The SERC Library Blog continues its “From Here to Diversity” series dedicated to providing 18 exciting book recommendations for children, preteens, and young adults that recognize the importance of diverse representation in reading materials.

This week, we are shedding some more light on diverse representation by choosing 18 novels that feature protagonists and other characters from a Latinx cultural background. With the acknowledgement that only 5 percent of all children’s books published in 2018 featured characters of Latinx heritage, it remains important to provide exposure to these stories so that all young readers can feel seen and heard.

In the list below, there are three sections of books: Picture Books, Middle Grade Novels, and High School Reads. The six books in each section feature predominantly #ownvoices stories and have been published within the last few years. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather a taste of the variety of stories that provide representation to these communities, appreciate an underrepresented perspective of experience, acknowledge histories, and celebrate #ownvoices authors and stories.

Enjoy!

Image of an open book

Picture Books

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales

In celebration of Mexican culture and the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, this brightly illustrated counting book tells the story of Grandma Beetle, who enchants Mr. Calavera, a skeleton, while he is waiting for her to finish her chores for her party. This trickster tale counts in both English and Spanish as it weaves math skills together with an appreciation of traditions.

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya  (Author), Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)

This Pura Belpré Medal winner for Illustration retells the classic Princess and the Pea story with some Peruvian flair. With a sprinkling of humor, both author and illustrator weave the story of the prince who wants to marry and his mother who puts forth some tricks to test which lady is the most worthy.

Islandborn by Junot Diaz (author) and Leo Espinosa (Illustrator)

Lola is tasked by her teacher to draw a picture of her first home, but she can’t remember what it looks like. She was too young when she and her family left the Dominican Republic.  So Lola spends the afternoon asking all her family members their memories, both bad and good, and learning about their beautiful island home.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Yuyi tells her own story in this Pura Belpré award-winning book for illustration. Not knowing the language or what may wait for her on the other side, Yuyi makes her way to the United States with her infant son with the dream of a better life.  With the strength of the public library to support them, Yuyi and her son learn a strange new language and create a new home to build their dreams upon.

Lucia the Luchadora (series) by Cynthia Leonor Garza (Author) and Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrator)

Lucia loves pretending to be a superhero on the playground. Even though she can do all the flips and crazy jumps, the boys still tell her that a girl could never be a superhero.  Upset, Lola tells her Abuela about what the boys on the playground said. Little does Lola know that she comes from a long line of female superheroes, luchadoras, or female fighters from the Mexican tradition of lucha libre. With her Abuela’s story to inspire her and a flashy costume, she must return to the playground to stop injustice in its tracks.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise (Author), Paola Escobar (Illustrator)

This picture book tells the biography of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. Through her support of folk tales and stories, she was able to create beloved books and a legacy that continues to support bilingual literature today. Young readers will learn about this influential Latinx lady and be inspired by her work.

Pictures of the book covers of Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales, La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal, Islandborn by Junot Diaz and Leo Espinosa, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, Lucia the Luchadora (series) by Cynthia Leonor Garza and Alyssa Bermudez, and Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar

Middle School Novels

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Arturo loves his life with its mango smoothies, basketball games, shifts at Abuela’s restaurant, and his cute new neighbor Carmen. He is so busy spending his summer with his crush that he doesn’t notice how his neighborhood is starting to change and the creepy land developer behind it all. Arturo and Carmen must come up with a scheme that will halt the developer in his tracks, and in the process they will learn about themselves and the power of protest.

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez

Malu (that is short for Maria Luisa O’Neill-Morales) is a punk-rock lover. From the zines she makes to her favorite Chuck Taylors, Malu strives to stay true to herself. But living the punk-rock way of life, like her father, is already proving to be a problem at her new school in Chicago. Her first day there, Malu gets called a “coconut” (that is, brown on the outside and white on the inside) by the popular Selena and ends up making her an enemy. But Malu is not easily swayed. With the help of some new “misfit” friends at school, Malu puts together a band to play a punk-rock song for a school event. Through her illustrated adventures, Malu will learn to balance both being Mexican and punk rock.

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Max Cordoba has many questions about the future: Will he make it on the futbol team? Will he ever meet his missing mother? What happened to her? What was she like? If only the stories Buelo told him about were true – then he would be able to find the mysterious gatekeeper who guides people to tomorrow and find out what his future might hold. But when Max discovers that some of the legends just might be true, he sets out to see if he can find the future for himself.

Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows (Book 1) by Ryan Calejo 

Proud of his Latin American heritage, Charlie Hernandez is an expert on all the classic myths, thanks to his grandmother and her stories of monsters and other scary things that wait in the dark. As fun as these stories are, he’s never believed in them – that is, until one day his body starts changing into something that is very close to one of his favorite legends. Charlie is suddenly thrust into a battle to protect the Land of the Living from a group of evil spirits that want to rule mankind. He must figure out what is happening to himself if he is going to save the world from ending.

Lety, Out Loud by Angela Cervantes

Lety Munoz loves volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter. The animals are adorable and they don’t judge her when she takes her time finding the right words in English from her first language, Spanish. When the shelter assigns Lety and classmate Hunter to write profiles for the pets, Lety is excited to help out. Hunter, on the other hand, does not want to work as a team. Hunter makes a deal with Lety that whoever writes the most profiles for the pets that get adopted will get to be the main writer and the loser will pick a different job to do in the shelter. Will Lety get the chance to prove herself and how awesome a writer she can be?

Lowriders in Space (Lowriders in Space series) by Raul Gonzalez

This graphic novel tells the story of three friends, Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria, and their love of lowrider cars. By chance they come upon a contest promising a trunkful of cash to the person who enters with the best lowrider car. The team agrees that winning this prize will allow them to open up the garage of their dreams. Readers can come along on this crazy adventure to create the best car in the universe.

Pictures of the book covers of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez, Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan,  Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo, Lety, Out Loud by Angela Cervantes, and Lowriders in Space by Raul Gonzalez

High School Reads

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This Pura Belpré award winner tells the story of Xiomara Battista, a feisty girl with so much to say. Xiomara pours her words and feelings into poetry in a leather-bound journal — and she knows her poems must stay there. If her strict, religious mother ever found out about them, life as she knows it – her relationship with the boy in her class named Aman, her involvement at a slam poetry club at school, and her avoidance of religious Confirmation classes – would come to an end. But with words as powerful as Xiomara’s, it is only a matter of time before her truth is set free.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Dante and Ari could not be more different. Yet somehow when they meet at the local swimming pool, they become instant friends. Both boys have challenges to overcome – Ari is angry over the loss of his father and brother, and Dante is struggling to find a way to tell his family about his sexuality. Yet in each other, the boys find ways to accept themselves and become the people they want to be.

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas Series) by Zoraida Cordova

This supernatural fantasy tale inspired by Latin American culture follows Alexandra Mortiz, a bruja (or witch) who wants nothing to do with her magical powers. While her family plans her Deathday celebration, which will unleash her powers completely, Alex casts a canto that will instead strip herself of magic and unintentionally sends her entire family to the underworld. Alex, her friend Rishi, and brujo boy Nova must travel to the center of Los Lagos to free them all before it is too late.

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder

Francisco has a simple life in Bolivia – school, friends, family, and soccer make up his life. Then suddenly Francisco’s father is unjustly arrested on false charges, and the entire family must move into the prison with their father. The prison’s conditions are terrible, and Francisco is faced with a terrible decision: stay with his father in dangerous conditions or make the trek with his sister to their grandparents in the countryside.

Iron River by Daniel Acosta

In 1958, Manny Maldonado spends his days being the mischievous misfit of his San Gabriel valley neighborhood. Manny, aka Man-On-Fire, and his friends are obsessed with the Iron River, a train that passes by his home. From listening to it chug through his neighborhood to catching a ride on its caboose to throwing old fruit at its cars, the Iron River is a central part of their everyday lives. However, the boys’ innocent misdeeds come at a cost when a homeless person is found murdered nearby and a local cop believes they are guilty of the crime.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica L Sanchez

Julia is nothing close to being a perfect Mexican daughter. That title always belonged to Olga, Julia’s older sister. Now that Olga is dead, her absence has left a gaping hole in Julia’s and her family’s life. But how perfect was Olga, really? When she discovers some information about Olga that alters her perspective about her “perfect” older sister, Julia, with the help of her friends, becomes dedicated to finding out the truth at any cost.

Pictures of the book covers of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova, An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder, Iron River by Daniel Acosta, and I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica L Sanchez

References:

* Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic. 

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” – Rudine Sims Bishop*

Think back to your favorite book as a child. Were these windows into other lives sliding glass doors or mirrors for you?

Reflecting back on my favorite childhood storybook, I can remember that it inspired me to become interested in the planets and constellations. While it may have been my favorite book, it was certainly not the only reading material in my collection that featured an innately curious white girl who went on explorations and adventures. It was these books that made me think that I could explore the universe because the main character was able to. I felt that I could explore the universe because those characters looked like me.

When we reflect on how much representation matters in self-development, we must remember our first cultural interactions with people. Other than family and friends, children absorb images of representation from the first books we read with them and are reinforced every year a child is in school with the stories and histories taught in the classroom.

This is not inherently a problem. But the lack of diversity in the children’s and young adult book publishing industry is. 

Infographic image describing the diversity in children's books in 2018.

In 2018, American Indian/First Nations, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, African, and African American characters, combined, were represented in just 23 percent of children’s books.  So we can reasonably say that children who are nonwhite are often not seeing a diverse representation of their cultural background. If Rudine Sims Bishop is correct and reading is a means of self-affirmation, then only limited ideas of the self for certain diverse groups are presented as possible options for the future for these students.  These limitations negatively affect not only those from diverse backgrounds; they also limit the opportunity for other students to see a perspective that allows them to empathize and understand others who are different from themselves. This limited amount of cultural representation in children’s books trickles down to schools and presents a restricted view of the world as “normal.” In a world already brimming with dissension and sometimes outright hate, we, as education professionals, need to make it a priority to include these lenses in the work we do with our students.  Regardless of our content area or specialization, we can all work within our schools and classrooms to help effect a change for all students.

But how do we accomplish this in the classroom? And how do we know which diverse books to include?     Here are a few things to consider when adding diverse books to your classroom:

A flower-like design of diverse faces.

Consider Own Voices

“Own voices” is a label applied to books that feature a character from a particular background that is written by an author who shares the same background as the main character. For example, a book with an Asian American male lead character would be written by an author who is an Asian American male.

Own-voices books provide an inside look at the lives of characters from the perspective of the author who has personally experienced it.  By using and promoting books that are own-voices stories, we are not supporting a potentially stereotyped or cartoonish representation while also providing visibility to those with diverse backgrounds.  If nothing else, stories are best when they are deeply felt and conveyed authentically. What could be more authentic than a story written from the perspective of one who has personally experienced it?

An image of social media app icons with unfocused images of people in the background.

Follow Diversity Influencers

Own-voices books have their own Twitter following at #ownvoices so that educators and others can follow to discover new and upcoming books that have that label. But we don’t have to stop there.

Reaching out to others in the diverse books community opens up new avenues of interest and allows us to consider critical perspectives on diverse books that we perhaps did not consider before. Diversity in Children’s and Young Adult books (and in our culture as well) is an ongoing discussion.  In order for us to support it in our classrooms, we need to engage in the conversation as well.

The blog “We Need Diverse Books” (also on Twitter @diversebooks) is another great resource to visit to see what options are available for books as well as to get an inside look at the authors through interviews.  WNDB periodically has book giveaways for low-income schools in the United States. 

Another helpful resource is “American Indians in Children’s Literature.” This blog, founded by Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian woman, seeks to provide critical analysis on both older and recent works of fiction that specifically involve American Indian characters. While the topic of the blog is restricted to a specific racial group, it provides excellent insight into how American Indians are portrayed in American culture, how this understanding presents itself in children’s literature, and why it is problematic.

Some other Twitter pages and events on this topic include:

ReadYourWorld (@MCChildsBookDay)

Diversity in YA (@diversityinya)

#DVPit (A Twitter event to showcase marginalized authors and illustrators only)

An image of a stack of books with one open book.

Consider Companion Texts

Not every educator has the opportunity to mix fiction into their curriculum, but that shouldn’t stop them from finding ways to incorporate diverse stories into their lesson plans.

Companion texts that provide diverse representation are a great way to provide more representation in the classroom environment and can potentially deepen student understanding of a topic through discussion. Social studies and history teachers might learn the perspective of Asian Americans during lessons on World War II through a book like George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy. Mathematics teachers might wish to explore the Middle Eastern origins of algebra with their students or simply highlight a biography of a mathematician from a diverse background.

The options for linking diversity and books to a content area are endless.

Promote Diverse Books in the Classroom

Promoting diverse books in the classroom doesn’t have to be a costly, intensive exercise. Classroom libraries are great for featuring diverse books, but they don’t necessarily work for every classroom.  We understand that classroom space, monetary restrictions, and limited time all present challenges to promoting diverse stories, but there are even easier ways to advocate for them within the school environment.

Advertising diverse books could look like taking the time to read an #ownvoices book in front of your students during silent reading time. It could look like featuring a diverse author or book-of-the-month on your whiteboard.  It could look like giving out or recommending a diverse book you loved to a student who might appreciate it. 

Each of these circumstances is an opportunity to show your students that diversity matters to you.  Every small step we take to support diversity in books and in schools speaks volumes about who we are as teachers and all the possibilities we believe they are capable of as students.

Please stay tuned for our series on diversity representation in Children’s and Young Adult books, where I will provide specific suggestions for racially diverse books that you can add to your school, classroom, or personal library.

References:

*Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ix

Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.